My average gaming sessions are probably between two and four hours. The lower number for competitive play and the higher for everything else. In between these sizable time commitments, I like to throw in what I call palate cleansers; games that are every bit as rewarding, yet don’t demand as much time. Over the course of 2020, these “diversions” range from roguelikes to simulations, some possibly landing in my Top 10 list for Best Games of the Year.
Each one of these titles allows you to make meaningful progress in just 10 to 20 minutes. For years, I would bring out my phone whenever I have a short window of free time on my hands, but I now find myself diving into various games, depending where I am at. If I’m on the go or am lying in bed, I usually have my Switch handy. If I’m home, I’ll boot up my Xbox or PlayStation. Yes, I am still hopelessly addicted to my phone (and love Clash Royale and Pokemon Go for short game sessions), but have thoroughly enjoyed using it less to focus on other games that released this year. Here’s what I’m currently playing in short bursts:
Last year, my roguelike obsession was Dead Cells. That satisfying itch has been replaced by Hades, one of the prettiest, most rewarding, and enjoyable games I’ve played all year. I put in a session or two each night on my Switch – each bringing progress that will hopefully help me in my next run. This has become the game I play before drifting off to sleep.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
I haven’t played it much lately, but when the pandemic hit earlier in the year, my virtual home away from home was my happy place. I was hooked on filling out the aquarium and museum with fish and dinosaurs. There’s a chance I’ll go back to check out the winter update, but without new things to track down, I doubt I’ll stay for long. Regardless, this is a great game for short sessions.
Frantic fun and demanding of perfection, Bloodroots serves up a symphony of combos and casualties, and is unlike anything else out there. I didn’t think I would go back to this game after completing it, but it has a charm that stuck with me, and, well, there’s just something satisfying about using a carrot as a sword. Each run lasts for 30 seconds to a minute.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 & 2
It’s so great having Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater back to fill my “just one more run” needs. Most of my sessions consist of me trying the same combo lines to see how big of a score I can chain together. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 & 2 is a wonderful throwback, and gives you plenty of adrenaline-filled excitement in just three to four minutes.
Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time
Another dose of nostalgia comes from Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, my favorite platformer of the year. In 15 to 20 minutes, a few levels can be completed, or, if you are on the harder levels toward the end of the game, you can die 15 to 20 times and walk away determined to do better next time. It’s challenging, but also immensely satisfying and fun.